When I called to schedule an annual well-check appointment for my son, I was told that he would need to wear a mask in the office.

He just turned 2, I explained, and is at home with me all day. Not only is he not accustomed to wearing a mask, I doubt very much he is developmentally capable of wearing one for more than five seconds.

Sometimes, I can’t even get him to wear pants.

I won’t force the mask on him. And since the waiting room is closed and he would interact only with the masked and presumably vaccinated nurse and doctor, who exactly would he be potentially exposing?

“Well, he needs to wear one if he’s going to see the doctor,” came the reply.

The exchange encapsulated everything that’s wrong with current public-health guidance when it comes to children — in practical, scientific and moral terms.

By now, we’ve all seen the disturbing videos of caregivers trying (unsuccessfully) to mask screaming toddlers at daycare centers or of exasperated parents desperately trying to cajole tantrum-throwing 2-year-olds to wear masks on planes.

These incidents cause undue stress on children and parents who are generally doing their best to comply with policies that have been designed by and for adults with little consideration about what is best for the kids involved.

And our nation stands alone when it comes to many of these draconian practices.

Perhaps parents don’t know that in most European countries, for example, schoolchildren are not required to cover their faces in order to participate in normal activities.

In Britain, even during the delta surge, masking young kids at school was expressly not part of the viral containment strategy. And masks were required only for discrete periods in secondary schools.

In France, only children 6 and older were required to wear masks when the school year began last month.

Public-health authorities in Norway do not recommend the use of face masks on children younger than 12, and they even caution that testing not be “performed in a way that is perceived as traumatic for the child.”

Some foreign airlines, such as Aer Lingus, include mask exemptions for young children who are not capable of wearing one.

Even the World Health Organization says that children 5 and younger should not be required to mask and recommends the masking of kids ages 6-11 only under certain circumstances, such as the child being in an environment with high-risk individuals.

These reasonable health policies aren’t the consequence of public health officials capitulating to angry parents or politicians. They’re based on studies and data which show that children are neither highly susceptible to severe covid-19 illness nor particularly strong transmitters of the virus.

They also take into account that children are not merely small adults but have explicit social and developmental priorities that should be considered when formulating any public health policy, especially those policies that affect their individual health, well-being and growth. Preventing the spread of disease isn’t the only consideration, after all, and given kids’ low-risk from covid, balancing other potentially harmful outcomes should take priority.

Further, any insistence that small children be masked to protect adults should raise questions about the competence of the vaccines. If the vaccines are effective and widely employed, what risk could an unmasked 2-year-old possibly pose?

These are distinctions that shouldn’t be difficult for health care providers to appreciate.

Yet they usually accept the guidance of U.S. health authorities even when it ignores science, needlessly instills fear, and wrongly assumes that there are no trade-offs between viral containment and other deleterious outcomes for our kids.

On its website, the American Academy of Pediatrics contends that face masks “can be safely worn” by children 2 and older with rare exception.

Any mother would tell her child that just because someone can do something, it does not mean they should.

Toddlers should not be required to wear masks — anywhere. And more parents should start saying so.

Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may send her email at cmallen@star-telegram.com.

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(7) comments

Davel3

Cynthia M. Allen, a very conservative columnist, may not be where you want to get your advice. Actually, I found it amusing that suddenly a conservative found it convenient to quote the findings of European sources. Normally, they just think their too "Socialist" and could careless about what they have to say on any topic. However, that's just me poking fun at the "right-wing," as they are so transparently to the right in everything they present. My actual point is to say, while one should follow the science, one should not follow the science that says only what they want to hear or only parts of what they want to hear. I might add that the WHO has a few caveats on children wearing mask, and that France based it upon a low spread threshold in a given area. Points that Cynthia left out in that convenient sort of conservative way. Read the links below before you decide if your child over two years of age should wear a mask. Keep in mind, it's often a good idea to simply err on the side of caution.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/groups/expect-school-child-care.html

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Cloth-Face-Coverings-for-Children-During-COVID-19.aspx

https://www.registerguard.com/story/news/2021/08/14/faq-safe-child-wear-mask-myths-debunked-school-breathing-development/5547261001/

Rob Galaxy54

Couldn't you just say " I don't like conservatives" or do you just like to hear yourself talk?

Davel3

Well Rob Galazy54... I could just make a super nasty one line comment that makes me appear totally irrational, but than I would be behaving just like a conservative.

Rob Galaxy54

See. That was easy. Good job.

NotatouristIlivehere

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Thanks for citing the additional source material. Allen is definitely biased, and shouldn’t be anyone’s sole source of information.

Cooldan

Requiring a toddler to wear a face mask around vaccinated health care staff just doesn't make any sense. Follow the science as dementia Joe would say.

azbeancounter

Do we need more proof that masks are mandated only to control and force compliance on the populace? It's time to wake up. Oh wait, we're not going to awaken or we would have by now.

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